Akimbo Shuts Down Set-Top Boxes

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IPTV provider Akimbo has announced it is no longer offering its hardware set-top boxes for sale, and will discontinue Akimbo service to existing units as of August 1, 2007. The sudden move comes after making a deal in mid-2006 to offer Akimbo content via AT&T’s HomeZone high speed Internet service, and just a week after the company announced a beta version of a new Akimbo client for Windows PCs.

In a letter to customers, Akimbo CEO Thomas Frank said the company would waive the $9.99/month subscription fee associated with the Akimbo set-top boxes through the service’s shut-off date of July 31. As a way to encourage customers to try the PC-based Akimbo service, the company is offering existing subscribers a $25 credit toward getting started on Akimbo via the PC. The PC-based service has no monthly fee; users may rent individual programs or sign up for memberships to receive an entire channel on a monthly basis.

Akimbo’s decision to abandon its hardware business sets the company up strictly as a content and service provider, which could be a risky move with other major media conglomerates (like Sony, Fox, and NBC) and Internet and consumer brands (like Microsoft, Google, Sony and Apple), and new players (like Joost) all looking to seize the burgeoning consumer market for Internet-delivered video content. Akimbo apparently looked at its hardware business merely as a mechanism to get the Akimbo service into the marketplace; with the growth of broadband access and the increasingly media-focused capabilities of household computers and media centers, a specialized set-top box no longer makes sense.

Many existing Akimbo customers are not pleased with the pending service cut-off, which will effectively drop a several-pound piece of unusable e-waste into their living rooms on August 1. [Editor’s Note: Akimbo has announced, through their user forum that they will in fact be offering set top box refunds: "For those who purchased their RCA Akimbo Player (Amazon, Frys.com, Fry’s Electronics or Akimbo.com) will be refunded the full purchase price with proof of purchase." ] Several of Akimbo’s content offerings are virtually unique in the North American market; users who don’t have access to AT&T’s HomeZone service—or who don’t use Windows—will have to way to access Akimbo’s content, even if they’re willing to continue paying for it.

As recently as September 2006, Akimbo partnered with RCA to introduce a new set-top box, which it offered at an initial price of $180.

[Note: Akimbo’s service began carrying technology videos from Digital Trends in November, 2006.]

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